Scona student fights suspension after cellphone search

Grade 11 student Alex Lee says school officials wrongly pegged him as a drug dealer after looking through his text messages following a fight near the school

Privacy vs security

10 years ago
Duration 2:19
High school searches student cellphones, reports Scott Fralick

An Edmonton high school student says he was suspended after school officials searched through the emails and text messages on his cellphone.

Grade 11 student Alex Lee said he and some of his friends were attacked by a group of people near Strathcona High School.

School officials thought the fight might have been drug-related, so they made him unlock his phone so they could search through it, he said.

"They went through all my pictures, my messages, my email and everything," he told CBC News.

Lee said one of the texts was from a fellow student, who asked if he could sell something to her.

"The school thought I was some sort of huge drug trafficker or something like that," he said.

Lee denies selling anyone drugs.

His father, Peter Lee, said the school is jumping to conclusions and had no right to search his son’s phone.  "Alex is not a drug dealer for sure, nobody buys from Alex," he said. "It's a privacy issue."

Jane Farrell, spokesperson for Edmonton Public Schools, said principals are well within their rights to look through a student’s phone if the circumstances call for it.

"They can certainly search a student's cellphone if they have suspicion that there's something that might affect safety or well-being," Farrell said.

Lee is planning to meet with the school board superintendent to see if he will be able to return to school.